Birds still not thriving in damaged Sepulveda Basin reserve

sepulveda-dam-tagging.jpgPhoto: Martha Benedict/SoCal Wild

Greenery has returned to the Sepulveda Basin south reserve where the Army Corps of Engineers bulldozed trees and wildlife habitat in a surprise sweep in December 2012. But not the birds, the website SoCal Wild says after a recent informal survey.

At a recent bird walk through both North and South Reserves, Kris Ohlenkamp from the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society says he recorded 63 species of birds, but only 5 were spotted in the South Reserve.

“I am surprised by the lack of diversity in the area,” he says as he walks through the area, pointing out where trees and shrubs were bulldozed over on that fateful December day. Late last year, the Army Corps removed most of the non-native trees on the reserve which now opens up the land for natives to recapture the land. (That removal was welcomed; groups like the Sierra Club, SFVAudubon, California Native Plant Society and others were also informed about the removal so there were thankfully no surprises.)

Today, young cottonwoods and box elders are regaining the ground and much of the overturned land is now covered with plant life, including native species. Butterflies and bees scour the offerings, but bird songs that are noisily heard non-stop in the North Reserve are strangely intermittent here.

Ohlenkamp stops near Haskell Creek where the only remaining non-native trees (trammel ash) stand; removing these thickly packed trees would have been too problematic and disruptive, he says. “Listen,” he instructs as he turns his head upward. “Nothing. No birds here. I don’t understand why.”

Indeed, many feathered residents that once took up nest in the South Reserve have been spotted now in the North, including about six pairs of California thrashers and three pairs of least Bell’s vireos.

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